Travis Pike for TTAG
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The OWL — Optimized Weapon Light — by Cloud Defensive attempts to push the boundaries of weapon light design. Even from the outside, the OWL looks like something different than most lights. It’s a 12 o’clock light that attaches over the top rail of your chosen platform and mounts to the side opposite of your support hand. The rail mount doubles as your activation switch.

Its external design is unique, but what really sets the OWL apart is the power it packs. While many companies sell their lights on the lumens they pack, the OWL is all about candela.

Lumens is a raw measure of light, but candela is usable light. The two work together with the OWL to provide you a bright and powerful long-range light.

The OWL packs 1,250 lumens and 50,000 candela. The end result is illumination that slices through the darkness and reaches out with a purpose. The OWL has an impressive effective range, and to get the most out of if, the light should be paired with an optic.

The OWL is a monstrous powerhouse of a light that allows you to see out to 200 yards when combined with a low powered optic. I was impressed when I got to 100 yards and could see my green target in rich color. I just kept moving backward, and at 200 yards, I could still establish PID on my torso and head-sized target.

You can see the details of the target at that range to determine if they are a threat or not.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
Ole Ivan illuminated by the OWL at 100 yards (Travis for TTAG)

That’s the effect of the OWL’s powerful combination of lumens and candela. The beam throw is long and intense, with enough spill to be useful. The beam color is warmer than most high powered lights, and this allows for better penetration of a photogenic barrier. Because I live in Florida and it’s summer, it’s pretty much always raining, or still foggy.

The OWL doesn’t care. It blazes on through both without issue. That’s one of the best features of a warmer beam, at least for me, because I live in an environment where rain is a constant companion.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
Rain ain’t nothing to the OWL (Travis for TTAG)

The OWL is an outstanding outdoor light and it works just as well inside the home. It throws a tight and powerful beam that will easily illuminate an entire room. The light is crazy bright, but it’s not uncomfortably so for the end-user. It produces a bad guy-disorienting beam that ensures you’ll have the ability to see a threat in vivid detail.

OWL Ergonomics

The light is surprisingly simple, and the ergonomics are also simple. The OWL has one bug button that runs the length of the mount. The button itself can be activated regardless of where you press it. You don’t have to find a sweet spot to activate the light, just touch the button somewhere.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
One big button makes for easy pressing (Travis for TTAG)

The light has both momentary and constant modes that are determined by how long you hold the button down. A quick click is constant; a slightly longer hold is momentary.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
Works with strong side grips….(Travis for TTAG)

A design that sticks off the side the way the OWL does seems to present two problems. First, how can lefties use it? Second, if you needed to switch shoulders, could you?

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
…..and weak side grips (Travis for TTAG)

The answer to the first problem is you can reverse the tail cap and head of the light. Neither sports threading, but instead, you get a patented lug system that rotates and releases each end, allowing you to reverse the light for left-handed use.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
The Lug system means no threaded needed (Travis for TTAG)

In terms of swapping shoulders, there is no issue. The light is still natural to activate by just reaching behind it and finding the button with your thumb. It surprised me by how easy it was to reach, and also showed me how terrible I am at shooting from my left shoulder.

Build Quality

The OWL is a tank. It’s built to be extremely durable and exceeds industry standards for both impact resistance and waterproof design. It can be submerged up to 200 feet for 24 hours without issue.

Durability-wise, Cloud Defensive has posted some impressive test results over their social media. They say beat the hell out of the OWL, and it keeps on keeping on. In my experience, the light is unaffected by heat from a gun, even though it’s often placed right by the gas block and muzzle.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
Bright and Beautiful (Travis for TTAG)

When I say this light is a tank, I mean it. It weighs 11 ounces with an 18650 battery. Thats a good bit of heft for a weapon light, but I don’t mind the weight when I’m getting all this power.

Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light
Its a big, powerful light (Travis for TTAG)

The Cloud Defensive OWL comes with two 18650 batteries and a professional grade battery charger. Rechargeable 18650s are common, and quality models cost less than ten bucks each. The 18650 batteries are necessary to provide all the power required for the OWL generate the beam it does.

One small feature that bears mentioning is the tail cap doubles as a tool that can be used to attach or detach the light from the rail. It’s a smart move that makes it perfect for field conditions. Lastly, the OWL is made in the good ol’ US of A.

Specifications: Cloud Defensive OWL Optimized Weapon Light

Lumens: 1,250
Candela: 50,000
Length: 5.255 inches
Weight: 11 Ounces
MSRP: $369.99

Ratings (out of five stars):

Power: * * * * *
The OWL is a mighty light that casts its beam bright and far. It’s best when paired with a magnified optic to get the most out of it. The OWL offers unbeatable range and power in all situations.

Ergonomics: * * * *
The design itself is effortless, and the single control is easy to press and not picky about how you activate it. The light can be used in multiple positions and allows for equal access to righties and lefties. The only downside is the weight.

Durability: * * * * *
The Cloud Defense OWL is an absolute beast. It’s a durable light designed to last and is seemingly bombproof.

Overall: * * * * *
The OWL represents the first in what’s likely going to become the new standard for weapon lights. It’s hard to go back to even premium lights like Surefire and Streamlight when the OWL exists.

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  1. I’ll keep my $15 Tac light for now. 580 lumens & weighs 8oz. $370 is mighty pricey and insanely large& heavy…

    • It does look like a really nifty piece of kit, but that price, tho… If you’ve got the $$ to drop on it then go ahead, but hell, my AR build (PSA upper & LPK, Anderson lower) didn’t cost too much more than this light’s MSRP.

      I’ll add this light to the “if I ever have enough money for a top-end AR” list, where it’ll remain probably forever.

      If I spend $300+ for anything to hang on my rifle, it’s going to be a reflex sight, since I’ve read that they work better than red dots for those of us with astigmatism. Or maybe one of those nifty Primary Arms 1-4x optics.

      • I’m really not sure why people get hung up on the cost of the owl. It comes as a package with integrated rail mount and switches which most other offerings do not.

        That puts it in the same price range, or less, than many MWL’s once you swap tailcaps and add a mount and switches.

        I wouldn’t put it on your rifle though. No offense but I’ve not seen much stuff from PSA I would buy other than as secondhand with the intention to wreck it.

        • None taken. I bought the best rifle I could afford, and so far it’s working out great. It’ll hit anything I can properly aim at with iron sights (no optic yet), and has been perfectly reliable.

          I haven’t seen where PSA builds have any tendency to failure (in fact, in the tests I was able to find, they were more reliable than several ARs with more expensive names), and I’m not likely to ever push it hard enough to find out where it taps out. So for my purposes, good to go.

          No problems with the idea of expensive equipment — if it performs accordingly. If I had $300 to drop on a weapon light, this looks like it’d be a fine choice. But there are other things I consider higher priority for the limited gun budget, so this sits on a “maybe someday” list with a lot of other stuff.

        • I should probably note that when I say “intention to wreck it” I’m serious about the intent part. Rocking things ’til the wheels fall off is part of how I got where I am in life. (Much to the displeasure of my mother and my wife who both ask “Can we throw this out yet?”)

          PSA uppers IME are alright. They’re not overpriced hype or total trash. I’m not aware of any that are what I’d go “Ooooo nice” about but I’m also not aware of any that aren’t serviceable… well, one or two but that was a “owner issue” if you get my drift. Some people are dumb enough to fuck up Legos and those are color coded and marked as non-edible FFS.

          The main issue I’ve seen with PSA stuff is that the upper and lower don’t mate as tightly as I like. S&W M&P variants have the same problem IME. As such they don’t tend to do as well as the barrel is capable of doing. Good enough for many applications but I’m a perfectionist always trying to hit bottle caps at longer and longer ranges.

      • Most red dots are reflex sights (dot reflected off) and flare/smear for those with astigmatism. Prism sights (etched reticle) are the ones they see clearly.

        • I’ve gotten used to astigmatism, maybe I have a milder form. I have red dots on my Mossberg turkey gun (Bushnell Fast Fire, cheap but accurate, as a couple dozen gobblers could attest——if they had heads), a Sig Romeo 6 on my AR build, and a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro on my Glockzilla 10mm. Of all, the Leupy is the crispest, but they all bleed a little. I do like that Sig, too, very easy to get right, and man I can get it on target quickly. I do believe if I had the skillz and eyesight, that Sig would be on point waaaay down range. Overall, these optics are very effective for my eyes, but I’m not trying to hit bottle caps, just ringing steel and busting turkey and deer, or whatever comes along…
          I’ma buy that Owl, I wanna play more at night. That’s when the monsters come out.

  2. 1250 seems overpowered for a WML on a rifle.

    How’s the spot? Does it wash out a dot that’s on a lower setting? I’m guessing yes…?

    • With a SIG Reomo 5 XDR It didn’t wash out the reticle on setting 4 (Which is the second nonnightvision setting)

        • I maybe should clarify why/what I’m asking this here.

          For outdoor use bright lights like this are great and unfortunately most reviews of WMLs are done outdoors. Flannel Daddy loves the OWL (year old revew link below) he did do some basic testing indoors but, IMHO, that testing was seriously wanting.

          However, most people who actually buy this kind of thing look at a WML as something they’re going to put on a “fighting rifle” by which they mean “home defense gun”.

          That brings up issues that don’t necessarily become evident outdoors or on an indoor range that’s often not set up like a dark residence. A bright light in these circumstances can wash out a dot indoors, or can do so based on the background at close range. In those cases you can find that the light works great outdoors and against certain backgrounds indoors but against a light colored background inside your house at relatively close range the dot disappears at what you thought was a good brightness setting. You’d probably want to know this ahead of time because adjusting your dot when you discover that light colored walls wash out your dot after someone kicks in your door at oh-fuck-thirty would suck.

          As always application matters.

  3. I’ve got a couple Streamlights and have been satisfied with them. But I’ve always wanted to try one of the OWLs because of quite a number of reviewer raves – its just the price that kept me away. But that’ll change soon since we’ve cut down eating out at restaurants, I’ve starting to get some room in the budget for some significant upgrades…

  4. streamlight protac 2lx 500 lumens
    perfect output size and weight for a 10″ rail on a 10.5″ ar pistol
    50 bucks
    and i have enough money left over for the upper for my next build

  5. I really like this OWL and would get a couple of the price didn’t matter. But in the meantime, I’m happy with my Olight Valkyries.

    • I’m with you on that price tag. Anything north of $250 is crazy for a light. Not much more powerful than the 1000 lumen I’ve got hanging right now, and the price difference is large between them. It to has a nice spot, with just enough diffraction to allow for a nice bit of area spillover. Light itself is a beast for taking abuse, and weighs 6 3/4 oz. You might mistake this for high praise. Don’t.

      The original bracket is crap, pure heavy steel of unknown origin. Plus, I had to replace the remote because not a damned thing, even 3M VHB would fail to adhere to it as an added detraction. Not enough extra past the switch to even use zip ties. I wouldn’t recommend it except as a regular flashlight, & that’s why I’ve not mentioned the name. Light itself is great, everything else is garbage tier.

      This one I’d nix just over the C-clamp grip activation requirement alone, outside of price.

  6. “18650 battery only”
    Well, hard pass. AAs for NODs, CR123 for DBAL, AAAs for headlamp and optic…
    I’m not a f**king RadioShack.

  7. Dont want rechargeables in a defensive weapon. Murphy was an optimist and he says a rechargeable battery will be dead when you need it. If the tube will hold an 18650, then 2 CR123a’s should also fit. The reserve is not always true. Old Surefires had to be bored out to hold an 18650.

  8. How did we ever manage to win wars, or whack local bad guys, without the assistance of such lighting I wonder. 😉

    • True. But bright, white weapons mounted lights are not for warfighting.

      They’re there to help you keep your night-time defensive gun use legal.

        • Yeah well IR isn’t helpful for ID’ing targets, just spotting them. Lights are good for one additional thing though, even more modern NODS still don’t react to well to intense visible light sources. That strobe does a number on a lot of commercially available ones.

          Can’t speak to the current gen Mil issue, but it does leave me wondering. Anyone know offhand?

        • I doubt NODS will drop drastically in price. A bit part of the price is the lens material which ain’t gonna get much cheaper.

          Germanium has come down a bit, around $1200 for a kilo these days IIRC but I don’t see the bottom falling out of that market any time soon. And then you have to grind a lens out of it.

  9. Seems like overkill designed to relieve you of excess money in your pocket. I got the larger Crimson Trace light on sale for like $35. It came with all of the mounting options and free batteries for life. It’ll light up the house at night.

  10. The only application I can think of where you’d a weapon light to illuminate a target at 200 yds is spotlighting for that trophy buck at 3AM. I can’t imagine very many outlaw hunters parting with $370 for a poaching light, but they might shoplift one from the sporting goods store! $370! Too funny!

  11. I purchased my Surefire M600U on sale for $199. 1000 lumens and with the Surefire RM45 mount it comes in at 5oz on my postal scale.

    You got to be high as a kite to want to mount 11oz out of the front of your rifle when there are at least a half a dozen options that are half the weight and easily at least $100 or more less than this thing.

    If you you are not using this thing for hunting, or any rifle light for that matter, who in the hell is searching around in the dark with a weapon light past 25 yards??? If it is pitch dark out are you really trying to find targets with a light past 25 yards? You are just telling the other side “hey I am right here”.

  12. Some but maybe not all tactical gun lights could benefit from an adjustable focus of the beam between flood and distance. Specifically, that should be a accomplish with a quick throw lever/protrusion on the lense basil ring, similar to those on variable power scopes.

  13. From their website,
    We stand behind our products. If your OWL fails through any fault of ours during the course of normal use, we’ll fix or replace it, as need be.

    Rechargeable batteries have a life, at some point all rechargeable batteries will fail. Is they covered under the lifetime warranty?
    For $300+ they should be.

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